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Close your eyes. Imagine you are 18 years old again and back in high school. But now you are 6'10" and weigh 240 pounds. Everyone in school knows your name. No one insults you when you walk through the halls. You are a terrific athlete. You have muscles layered on muscles, sculpted on a body that can move with the speed and reactions of players who are a foot shorter. And you can play basketball. Really play. You have the height and power for the inside game, and you also have 20-foot jumpers and no-look passes and behind-the-back dribbles down pat. You can rebound and you can block shots so hard and so far they look as if they were fired from a cannon. A basketball is half hidden by your monstrous hands. Your team wins the state championship because of you. The colleges are all kicking down your mother's front door to get you to sign with them and come to their campuses and chase coeds, pledge fraternities and decipher the complexities of English 101. Your house is mobbed with recruiters who smile all the time, displaying ear-to-ear teeth. But over in the corner is a small man in a dark trench coat who crooks his finger and beckons you. He opens a suitcase. It is filled with a million dollars.
"It's yours, "he says with a smile.
"What college are you from?" you ask him, unable to take your eyes away from the money.
He pauses before lie answers: "The college of hard knocks, Baby. The pros. And we want you. YOU got potential!"
Suddenly the alarm clock goes off and you wake up and realize you haven't grown an inch since the night before. Judging from how long it takes you to get from the bed to the bathroom, your reactions haven't improved, either. You realize it was only a dream.
Darryl Dawkins, who bypassed college and strode into the NBA directly from high school, had the same dream—but he never woke up. His dream merged into reality with such swiftness that at times it was hard for him to tell the two apart. Was he an 18-year-old high school kid playing in the pros, or was he a pro with the adolescent cares of a high school kid?
"Darryl has always thought life was a big lark." says Pat Williams, the Philadelphia 76ers former general manager. "He never realized how serious this business is to most of us who make a living at it."
"What is your church preference, Darryl?"
"Redbrick, "Sir Slam replied.
It seems hard to believe that he has played 13 seasons in the NBA. Wasn't it only yesterday that he was plucked out of Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Fla., taken as a hardship case in the first round of the 1975 draft by the 76ers and given a seven-year contract worth one million dollars? Don Nelson, the former Milwaukee Bucks coach, thought at the time. "In a few years we [are] all going to be treated to seeing one of the greatest centers in the game."